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Socioeconomic Integration Is Critical for Obama’s New Community College Plan

January 14, 2015 COMMENTARY BY: The Century Foundation TOPICS: Education, Ensuring Fairness in College Admissions, Improving Access to Quality Public Schools

Guest blogger Jonathan Hasak explains why critics of President Obama’s community college plan who say the federal government would be mostly reducing the cost for higher-income families are missing the point entirely.


The Genius of Obama’s Two-Year College Proposal

President Obama recently announced his goal to provide universally free education to two-year community colleges in the U.S. Despite the difficulties in hammering out strategies and complications of achieving this ambitious goal, many critics have lauded the fact that if passed, this new provision would promote integration and diversity on otherwise low-income community college campuses.

Today, there is an enormous degree of economic stratification in higher education. According to research by Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl of Georgetown University, wealthy students outnumber poor students at the most selective four-year colleges by 14 to one, while community colleges educate twice as many low-income students as high-income students. Moreover, their research finds that, between 1982 and 2006, the proportion of students from the richest quarter of the population attending community colleges has declined, while those attending from the poorest quarter has increased.

The whole piece featured in The Atlantic can be found here.

Tags: low-income students, higher education, diversity in education, community colleges

Community College Should Be More Than Just Free

January 9, 2015 COMMENTARY BY: The Century Foundation TOPICS: Education, Ensuring Fairness in College Admissions

President Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free is a logical next step in today’s skilled economy. Access to free education shouldn’t end at high school, but there’s more we can do to improve community colleges.

Tags: president obama, higher education, economy, community college

Standardized Tests Are Weakening Our Democracy

TCF fellow Richard Kahlenberg reviews and praises Lani Guinier's book The Tyranny of Meritocracy. Guinier delves into the weak ties indicated by SAT scores and success, linking high SAT scores with wealth instead of merit. He writes:

As a result, our testocracy fails to produce what our democracy needs, Guinier argues. Leading colleges claim to serve the public interest, which is why they receive enormous tax breaks. Princeton University’s informal motto, for example, is “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” That commitment is what justifies an estimated $45,000 per-pupil tax subsidy of Princeton students. And yet in a recent year, more than half of Princeton graduating students went into investment banking or consulting, careers “lacking in any element of social service,” Guinier notes.

Read Kahlenberg's full review featured in The Nation here.

Tags: standardized testing, college tuition, college admissions

While It’s Up to Voters, the Election Process Tends to Favor Dynasties

TCF fellow Richard Kahlenberg is quoted in a recent New York Times piece about the legacy of names and families in the education admissions process. He likens the concept of education legacies to government nepotism, saying that neither is good for diversity.

The art and science of elections tend to favor dynastic influences. Resources in campaigns are used largely to increase name recognition and connect important narratives. Known entities can dedicate more resources to mobilize voters and reinforce messages.

Read the full NYTimes piece here.

Tags: nepotism, educational diversity, college admissions

A Helping Hand to High Achievers

TCF senior fellow comments on Michael Bloomberg's new initiative to expand college access and completion" for low-income, high-achieving students. Says Kahlenberg:

There’s very little incentive for universities to address a lack of economic diversity…Racial diversity is much more visible, and socioeconomic diversity is much more expensive to address because you have to provide financial aid.

Read the full article.

Tags: strivers, socioeconomic affirmative action, michael bloomberg, high-achievers, college admissions




Most K-12 education reforms are about trying to make "separate but equal" schools for rich and poor work well. The results of these efforts have been discouraging. The Century Foundation looks at ways to integrate public schools by economic status through public school choice. At the higher education level, we examine ways to open the doors of selective and non-selective institutions to students of modest means.

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